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Research shows most effective means of testing value propositions

Published on October 22, 2012
Tags: Usability, Internet Communication

In trying to gauge your own marketing success, it can be very useful to know which value propositions will be most productive and give the highest return on investment for your company. But how do you begin a true and productive testing campaign?

Earlier this year, MarketingSherpa launched its Lead Generation Benchmark Survey in order to discover the most effective means of testing value propositions. Some of the participants in the survey were asked which methods they felt were the most effective and compelling for website visitors. 64% of the respondents said that they felt landing pages were effective, with email marketing campaigns coming in a close second on 51%. Just 40% said they felt other types of website pages were effective, with 36% supporting pay-per-click advertisements such as those displayed by Google Adwords. In contrast, just 16% of respondents said that they felt offline advertising - such as direct mail and print advertising - was effective.
 
Respondents were asked to select up to three of the categories, allowing them to choose what they felt were effectively the three most effective methods of marketing. Interestingly, the order of the options seems to closely follow the inherent associated cost, with landing pages being effectively free, working down to costly offline advertising at the bottom of the tree. Was this factor borne in mind by the respondents when considering the options? After all, the cost of a marketing campaign will have a direct effect on its profitability and perceived effectiveness. As business owners continue to feel the pinch of the current economic climate, was the inherent cost of marketing campaigns perceived to be abnormally negative, leading to an artificially downgraded view of its effectiveness? The permutations and perceptions abound, but as with any survey which is built on the opinions of its respondents, the true underlying causes can never be fully known.
 
In terms of testing conversion factors, the results of this survey seem to bear similar results. Landing pages and email marketing campaigns often come out on top in terms of conversions with offline marketing and pay-per-click campaigns ranking lower. Although the new data may not be groundbreaking, it does give a fascinating insight into the beliefs and perceptions of marketers and business owners which, in itself, can be incredibly useful in terms of planning marketing campaigns. After all, marketing is all about perception and it should not be dismissed as a factor purely because it is ‘unscientific’ or unimportant.
 
Value proposition can be very easily tested through using landing pages. With virtually unlimited options in terms of testing the content of these pages, marketers can test continuously in order to find the ‘sweet spot’ which will maximise conversion rates, lower bounce rates and increase profits for the business. Of course, these things are all notoriously hard to do with the slower and more rigid medium of offline advertising. However, 16% is not an insignificant figure, so offline marketing clearly does still have its own appeal for many.

By Chelsey Evans

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Custom software; what are the indications that my business needs it?

Published on October 22, 2012
Tags: Web Development London

Custom software is widely available for businesses small and large, but it is one of those products for which can be notoriously difficult to assess the benefits. After all, how do you know if your business needs custom software? We’ve taken a look at the major features and benefits in order to help you decide whether or not custom software could be beneficial for your business.

Do you or your staff find yourselves reentering similar data into various different pieces of software? Or do you distribute a large amount of printed material - something which could be replaced electronically? These are both major signs that your company could benefit hugely from custom software. Any time-consuming manual work can be easily automated, saving your business time and money. Even time spent doing boring and tedious calculations in order to gauge sales and profit levels can be easily clawed back through software automation.
 
Many companies and employees keep data in spreadsheets. This is incredibly inefficient and will be losing your company time and money, eating into your profit margins. If you’ve found yourself using similar workarounds because there doesn’t seem to be an off-the-shelf software package which suits your needs, it’s time to have a custom software system built just for you. You’d be surprised: it’s actually not that expensive and is quite an easy process to go through.
 
Custom software increases your company’s efficiency by automating routine and laborious activities, which leaves your staff free to deal with real tasks which will directly benefit your customers. Office material costs will also be cut due to the dwindling need for paperwork and manual administration, making your custom business software even more profitable for you and your company. You’ll no longer need to employ people to send out invoices, emails or manage appointments - this can all be done using custom software.
 
These days, time is money and the incredibly huge savings which can be made in terms of time translates into pure profit for your company. There are also benefits to be made in terms of security, which may sound strange considering the fact that much of your company’s data will be held in one central system. However, the size of this system is to its advantage in terms of security. Your current system of spreadsheets, Access databases and printed paper is possibly as unsecured as it could be. Storing this information in a central database accessed by custom software allows it to take advantage of a specifically-built security system which will ensure that your data is kept safe from prying eyes. The UK’s Data Protection Act does, in fact, make securing data a legal obligation for your company.
 
So, if you’re looking to cut the costs of administration and the tedium of recurring and laborious tasks, along with the added advantages of increased security and rising profits, it seems that custom software really could be the answer for your business.

By Chelsey Evans

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New company profile pages for LinkedIn

Published on October 17, 2012
Tags: Internet Communication

Users of the business social networking site LinkedIn may well have recently logged on to discover that company profile pages on the site have been given a slick new look and layout. The redesign is intended to help drive LinkedIn forward as the leading social network for business use in the face of increasing competition from mainstream social networking websites such as Facebook and Twitter.

Inspiration has certainly been taken from mainstream social networks, with the new header image on each company profile page looking remarkably similar to those used on Twitter profiles and Facebook pages. At 646px x 220px, the image is the main focal point when visitors first hit a company’s profile page. Businesses can also make status updates ‘sticky’, keeping them highlighted for up to 48 hours, which is particularly useful if you are trying to get an important message across using your LinkedIn company profile page.
 
In terms of the header image, companies will need to ensure theirs is bold and eye-catching, making the most of the large amount of screen real estate LinkedIn have provided for this use. Images do, however, need to be kept under 2MB in size. Your company branding can now take centre stage on your LinkedIn page.
 
Although the pages have been made far more attractive and visually appealing, the functionality of company information and employee relationships has also been improved, making LinkedIn infinitely more usable for you and your employees. It’s vital that you keep your company information up to date and provide detailed yet concise information for those who may be viewing your business profile page on LinkedIn.
 
LinkedIn is a great place to push your products and services and the new company profile pages update makes it easier than ever to get your message across to potential partners and clients. It even makes it easier to hire new members of staff and advertise employment vacancies through your company profile page and across the site. It is clear that LinkedIn have not only had an eye on the visual aspect of the social network when designing this new update, but also on the functionality and networking side of things. After all, is that not what LinkedIn is for?
 
There’s now no excuse for your business not to have its own company profile page on LinkedIn. If you do not already have one set up, it is quick and easy to do and will help brand your business on the social network with great effect. In the modern age of social networking, your company deserves to have a presence and will be able to reap enormous rewards through effective use of social networking and social media optimisation. The new, improved company profile pages on LinkedIn are just the tip of the iceberg.
 

By Chelsey Evans

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Mobile internet now accounts for more than sixteen percent of all web traffic

Published on October 15, 2012
Tags: Mobile Application Development

It probably won’t come as a surprise to many people that mobile internet use has grown exponentially in recent years. In fact, a recent study by Shareaholic has shown that more than 16% of all internet traffic now originates from mobile platforms - an increase of 27% this year alone.

Something which may interest website owners is that mobile users have a 9.56% higher bounce rate than desktop users, a statistic which may well be attributable to the fact that a vast number of websites simply are not optimised for mobile use. In fact, a recent Google study showed that 61% of mobile users will leave a website if it is not mobile-friendly. In comparison, 67% of user were found to be more likely to buy products from a mobile-friendly website. With those worrying statistics, how can you afford not to have a website optimised for mobile use?
 
With the enormous rise in smart phones such as Apple’s iPhone (the most recent version of which, the iPhone 5, was released last month and has become the fastest-selling phone of all time), Research In Motion’s Blackberry smart phones and HTC’s Wildfire and Desire ranges have all seen a massive increase in mobile use. Even ‘conventional’ mobile phone manufacturers such as Samsung have seen incredible sales of their Galaxy S3 model, seen as a frontrunner to rival Apple’s new iPhone range.
 
Although larger screens and technology such as Apple’s groundbreaking retina display might mean that a desktop website is easier to view on a mobile phone than it once was, users still expect to see a website tailored towards the mobile experience - particularly when one considers the huge number of people accessing websites from a mobile phone or smart phone. Even users of tablet machines such as Apple’s iPad will often prefer to view a site which is optimised towards them in terms of size, layout and content.
 
Developing a website optimised for mobile users is not particularly difficult, and has no disadvantages whatsoever. Desktop users will still see your normal website whereas mobile users will be taken to your mobile content, ensuring that everyone sees the content they want to see on the device which suits them. With so few companies taking advantage of this new technology and embracing it, your company could easily be a leader in its field by moving towards mobile optimisation at its earliest convenience. After all, with 67% of users saying they’re more likely to buy from a mobile-optimised site, you’d be daft to ignore them.

By Chelsey Evans

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Facebook denies that private message bug ever existed

Published on September 28, 2012
Tags: Internet Security, Internet Communication

After rumours emerged on Monday evening that private messages were being displayed on Facebook users’ walls, the internet was up in arms about the latest privacy issue to be related to the social networking giant. A number of reports, most of which originated from France, suggested that messages from 2009 were being posted to users’ walls and were therefore visible to all users.

On Tuesday, Facebook came out and declared that this was untrue, stating that every message it had investigated was simply an old wall message which its users had forgotten about, therefore assuming they must have been private messages. The company said it had checked very report and found them all to be entirely false, adding: "A lot of the confusion is because before 2009 there were no likes and no comments on wall posts. People went back and forth with wall posts instead of having a conversation."
 
The users in France had been concerned that messages which appeared to have been sent between 2007 and 2009 were suddenly made public; something which alarmed a great number of Facebook users around the world. Facebook responded by saying that there was no way in which private messages could be published to a user’s wall due to them being handled completely separately by Facebook’s servers. Despite this, a number of users are still sure that a number of their wall posts were originally private messages.
 
The news comes on the same day that US financial publication Barron’s declared that Facebook’s public stock was only worth somewhere in the region of $15 per share - well below the flotation price of $38 per share; a price which has fallen drastically since the company was floated earlier this year. Shares ended down on Wall Street by 9.1% to $20.79, having fallen more than 11% earlier in the day. Although Facebook was only floated in May, its price has plunged more than 40% in just four months, worrying investors all around the world.
 
The social networking giant has not been without its recent controversy, much of which has been related to privacy issues which continue to dog the company. The introduction and implementation of a controversial facial-recognition tool which would automatically tag Facebook users in photographs uploaded to its website caused uproar in many circles, with a number of users saying it breached their privacy and control over their own photographs and which images would be available to their friends and work colleagues.
 
This week, Facebook announced that it was suspending the facial-recognition tool in Europe in order to concentrate its efforts on implementing changes recommended by the Data Protection Commissioner of Ireland last year. The tool will be discontinued for users in Europe by 15th October and is already unavailable to new users signing up for Facebook accounts in the interim. The feature was also criticised in Germany, with German data privacy authorities opening an investigation into the facial recognition tool.
 
The feature, named Photo Tag Suggest, uses facial recognition algorithms in order to work out who is in a picture based on previously-tagged photographs of that person. The system was introduced to make uploading and tagging photos much easier, as it is often seen as a time-consuming and laborious aspect of Facebook profile management. Users are able to opt out of using the feature, but critics have said this does not go far enough and have demanded that the database should be destroyed in its entirety.
 
For a company which was valued at over $100bn just four months ago, the road has been a rocky one and CEO Mark Zuckerberg certainly has a number of issues which he will need to address in order to assuage investors in his company, who are likely to be worried at the news of more controversy for Facebook and a number of problems which have meant that the stock price for the technology company has nosedived by over 40%. Many critics think the company will never manage to reach its flotation price and have advised against investing in the social media giant. Others, however, see it as a minor blip and are buying up shares at what they see as a rock bottom price.
 

By Chelsey Evans

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